Public Expenditure

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:43 pm on 20th February 1986.

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Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor The Chief Secretary to the Treasury 4:43 pm, 20th February 1986

Indeed, the hon. Gentleman has, but I have not had time to look it up. I think, from memory, that the point is that there is an extra security aspect in those figures. My right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will happily deal with that when he winds up.

I can quite understand why the hon. Gentleman wanted to interrupt my flow. All that matters for the Labour party is being seen to spend more—until the chips are down and those who have to pay suddenly wake up. I said last week that we have been calculating the cost of Labour pledges. Leaving out one-off promises and renationalisation, the cost so far is £24 billion extra a year. I was charitable to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). I conceded that if he ever found himself having to preside over a public spending programme, he would be forced to trim. Indeed, he is beginning to show signs of panic already—like the host at a party who promised everyone a splendid binge but, as the food and drink bill began to mount up, took fright at the hangover that everyone would face the following day and so began to hack away at the wilder commitments that he and his colleagues had made. He cannot get away from the fact that his colleagues, in criticising our spending plans, are constantly promising more. I shall give a few examples. He asked me to do so.

Last summer, the Leader of the Opposition committed a new Labour Government to doubling aid within two or three years of taking office. That is a fine pledge, but even on a conservative assumption of the build up, it amounts to about a further £900 million. I notice how the hon. Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald) is starting to mutter. Perhaps she will listen to some of these commitments and tell me whether I am right.

At the end of last year, the Opposition's industry spokesman committed himself in Tribune to increasing industrial support by at least 50 per cent. He gave no indication of its cost effectiveness. He gave no assessment of how much money was thrown down the drain in unwise industrial support during the time of the Labour Government. That amounts to about a further £1,100 million a year.

The Labour party remains committed to giving a substantial weekly grant to over-16s in full-time education. Does that remain the commitment, or does the right hon. Gentleman disown the "Charter for Youth" of June 1985? If not, the sum is a further £965 million a year.

In the document "Working Together" last year, there was a commitment to a 35-hour week. The cost in the public services alone would be some £3 billion a year. I shudder to think what it would be for the private sector. Has that been abandoned?